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Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

In This Issue

Researchers reveal eucalypt’s nano properties
Small nations can also be tech giants
NANO SAFETY: Labeling on sunscreens
INVESTMENT: Airbus investing in nanotechnology
COMMERCIALISATION: Nanoconnect Pilot Program
RESEARCH: Down to the wire: silicon links shrink to atomic scale

Event Calendar

  • Prague Czech Republic: Polymers in Medicine 2012
  • Sydney Australia: 3rd International NanoMedicine Conference
  • Warwick UK: Warwick 2012 Polymers
  • Amsterdam The Netherlands: Colloids and Nanomedicine 2012
  • Montreal Canada: 3rd International Conference on Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications
  • San Diego USA: 34th Annual International Conference of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology

Chair's Corner

Ian Gentle

It is coming up to ten years since the often-quoted report from Lux Research that predicted nanotechnology would be a billion dollar industry by the first quarter of this century. Back in 2004 it was reported that the incorporation of nanotechnology into products was estimated to have a global value of $US2.6 trillion by 2015 and that international demand would see the employment of two million direct and seven million indirect employees.

In recent months a report by Cientifica again looked at the economic impact of nanotechnology, and specifically what have been the growth sectors over the last decade. The Cientifica report is clear that predicting dollar values of nano applications is complex but clearly the earliest benefits from nanotechnology are being seen in the healthcare sector. As the report quotes “since we now know most (if not all) biological processes occur at the nanoscale, the application of life science principles – studying the causes of biological phenomena at the molecular level – means that medical and biomedical research is increasingly using a bottom-up (rather than the top-down) approach. The low bioavailability resulting from traditional oral and intravenous drug delivery methods and the market forces at work in the pharmaceutical industry, where patents expire after a relatively short period of time unless a novel form of drug delivery is developed that will extend the patent, are two major forces that will fuel the growth of the nanotech drug delivery market. The third factor at play is a combination of improved global health and a correspondingly dramatic increase in the size of the global aging population”.

Meanwhile a second report by Macmillan Cancer Support shows that there has been a dramatic increase in median cancer survival times over the last 40 years. Chief Executive of this group Ciarán Devane states that 40 years ago survival time for all cancer types was just one year, compared to six years now. As the report finds “coupling nanotechnology drug delivery (NDD) methods with improvements in diagnostics, we can expect that much more progress will be made in the next 10 years than in the previous 40”. The forecast for nano-enabled drug delivery therapeutics is for the market size in 2021 to be $US136B, that compares to $US2.3B today.

Ten years ago when I and others were looking at establishing the Australian Nanotechnology Alliance we were reading the original Lux figures and wondering if it was really possible that so much growth would come from small particles. It certainly looks like we are on track and it continues to be an extremely exciting time for all of us working in this field.

If you have great stories like the ones highlighted in this edition, let us know as we love promoting Australian nano research and applications. Send your stories to me at i.gentle@uq.edu.au.

Ian Gentle
Chairman - Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

Australian Nanotechnology Alliance
8/108-110 Boyce Road

Phone: +61 (0)7 3365 4800 • Email: info@nanotechnology.org.auWeb: nanotechnology.org.au

Notice Board

The 2012 Materials Research Society Fall Meeting in Boston taking place from November 26-30th will be chiaired by Professor Chennupati Jagadish from the Australian National University. Link: http://www.mrs.org/fall2012/

Professor Tom Davis of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine has joined the Editorial Board of The Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology. The Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology publishes original articles on all aspects of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. It provides a broad coverage of both fundamental and applied research, including aspects of chemistry, physics and biology as well as materials science and engineering. The Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology is published and completely funded by the Beilstein-Institut, a non-profit foundation located in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. For more information click here

Congratulations to Scientia Professor Justin Gooding for being awarded the Royal Australian Chemistry Institute's (RACI) HG Smith Memorial Medal for making the most significant contribution to an area of chemistry in Australia over the last ten years.

Austrade invites Australian nanotechnology organisations to meet with leading European companies with an identified interest in Australian capability and to participate in the Nanofair 2012 conference to understand emerging industry trends and benefit from networking and showcasing activities. Now in its 9th edition, Nanofair is expected to attract more than 300 delegates from 14 countries across Europe and beyond.

The program begins with individual meetings with leading European corporates from Austrade’s contacts in Germany, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic and Poland. These companies have identified interest in investing in nanotech research or partnering to accelerate the commercialisation of technology. Austrade will facilitate meetings for each mission participant with relevant contacts from its network. The meetings will take place at the company premises or at the Nanofair conference held in Dresden, Germany. The program also includes options to participate in Nanofair Conference, and networking events.

The focus of the Nanofair 2012 conference is on the fields of materials and surfaces, energy, electronics and life sciences, as well as nano-analytics and nano-composites for industrial applications. There is no Austrade fee to participate in the Europe Nanotech Mission program. Simply visit our website: www.austrade.gov.au/nanofair2012 to register this gives you access to Austrade’s discounted Nanofair registration fee: Industry €380 (in lieu of €495) , Academia €195 (in lieu of €295). For more information contact Deborah Ponzio Deborah.Ponzio@austrade.gov.au or rika.sasaki@austrade.gov.au

Applications are being sought from Queensland-based organisation that are developing innovative technologies with the potential to lower energy and water consumption, reduce greenhouse emissions and achieve environmental benefits. The Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management is offering up to $200,000 for projects which will develop innovative technologies that reduce consumption of fossil fuels or water, or the emission of greenhouse gases. Two funding rounds are being held during 2012. Draft applications in the first funding round must be received by 24th February 2012. With selected projects expected to be announced in July-August. The second funding round in 2012 is scheduled to be open during the period 8 May – 29 June. Visit www.derm.qld.gov.au/qseif

The Australian Academy of Science, in association with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), invites applications from Australian researchers to undertake Postdoctoral and Invitational Fellowships in Japan. Postdoctoral Fellowships are for a period of twelve to twenty-four months; Invitational Fellowships are either short term, for fourteen to sixty days, or long term, for two to ten months. Researchers in any field of natural sciences, including technology, engineering and medicine may apply. Applications close on Friday 16 March 2012. Visit http://www.science.org.au/internat/asia/index.html

The Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF) Group Missions calling for expressions of interest is now open. Group Missions are limited to two applications per Eligible Research Organisation. Group missions are visits by Australian groups to China or Chinese groups to Australia to achieve specific purposes related to research and research-driven innovation. Group mission activities may include:

  • Early and mid-career researcher exchange programs with Chinese partner/s
  • Research-related workshops and symposia with Chinese partner/s
  • Research-related visits and secondments of Australian researchers to China (including cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional missions)

The Australian Government will contribute a maximum of AUD$45,000 funding for each group mission. Australian Government funding will be applied primarily for Australian out-bound missions. For more information on the fund please see: http://www.innovation.gov.au/Science/InternationalCollaboration/ACSRF/Pages/GroupMissions.aspx

Researchers reveal eucalypt’s nano properties

A simple walk through his university campus has led Murdoch University scientist Dr Gerrard Eddy Jai Poinern to make a remarkable discovery.

The eucalyptus tree Mottlecah, also known as The Rose of the West for its large spectacular flowers, has silvery leaves covered in a wax, which produces nano-sized bumps and pillars. This causes water to form droplets that roll over the surface of the leaves and fall towards the root system of the plant, picking up any dirt along the way. “I had noticed these incredible plants on the Murdoch campus because of the unusual appearance of their leaves,” said Dr Poinern, who is based at the School of Engineering and Energy. “They made me wonder whether the plant had superhydrophobic properties and so began our research investigation.”

As part of their investigation, the team coated the leaf with carbon black toner from a laser printer cartridge and then observed how the rolling drops of water were able to completely clean the surface of the leaf.

“This was because the surface features formed by this Eucalyptus’ waxes gave the leaves remarkable wetting and self-cleaning properties. We believe this enhances the plant’s survival in an arid climate because it is able to source and effectively manage its water usage through channelling any water to its roots.”

Dr Poinern and his team have since discovered more about the unique self-cleaning and water-repellent properties of this tree, which could make it a gold mine for new nanotechnology applications.

Its superhydrophobic, self-cleaning properties are similar to that of the lotus plant, which has inspired a range of self-cleaning and anti-bacterial technologies currently being developed. Although unlike many plants with hydrophobic leaf surfaces found in aquatic environments, on this eucalyptus it is an adaptation to arid, dry climates; the leaf surface can channel any water directly to its roots.

Dr Poinern and his team also extracted waxes from the leaves and found that they were capable of self-reassembly. When coated on laboratory glass slides, the wax formed features which mimicked the complex three-dimensional geometry of the nano-sized bumps and pillars found on the original leaf surface, making the slide superhydrophobic.

“It was fairly easy and inexpensive to extract the wax from the leaves and yet the wax still had these remarkable qualities,” said Dr Poinern. “When the tested glass slides were placed horizontally onto a water surface, the added buoyancy support of the wax meant that it was able to carry a greater load than the uncoated slides.

Such coatings could find many applications in microfluidic devices used in advanced medical research and disease testing. Such coatings could help to maintain the sterility of devices which need to be used over and over again.

“In fact there are a number of potential applications and we are sure there are other WA native plants which have similar properties. We hope to continue our research to find out more about these properties and how they can be fully utilised.” Dr Poiner said.

Small nations can also be tech giants

Technological creativity and innovation is no longer a two horse race between the US and China, or rather never was, according to recent data published by the Martin Prosperity Institute in Toronto, one of the world’s leading think tanks.

Focusing on creativity and innovation, the greatest competition for the US comes from nations like Finland, Japan, Israel, Australia, Singapore and a host of other smaller nations - of the 75 nations studied, Australia was ranked #5 in the Global Creativity Index and #7 in the Global Technology Index.

The world’s biggest economy and birthplace of technology giants Apple and Microsoft was ranked third best on a Global Technology Index devised by economic development theorist Richard Florida and his colleagues.

The ranking looks at three aspects of a country’s technological portfolio: the proportion of researchers engaged in research and development (R&D), the amount spent on R&D as a share of gross domestic product, and the number of patents granted per capita. The researchers decided to examine the varying strengths in the tech sector because technology is seen as a key factor in driving economic progress. Finland topped the list, followed by Japan, USA and Israel.

‘Finland takes the top spot overall, ranking first in researchers, third in R&D investment, and fourth in innovation,’ the report said. ‘Home to Nokia and many innovative small firms, Finland is an acknowledged leader in innovative communications technology.’ Others that made the top 10 included Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark. That these comparatively tiny countries seem to be punching above their weight is partly due to the fact that they are filled with tech-savvy workers, according to the report released last month.

Dr Kevin Stolarick, research director at the MPI, said these compact states had achieved success by being clear-sighted and nimble, reacting quickly to shifting market forces.

‘These countries are focused on design and the innovative portion of manufacturing, and got that focus early when they first moved their production facilities to eastern Europe and then China,’ he said. As well as being innovative, Dr Stolarick said, the smaller countries had invested ‘smartly in innovation’.

‘They are not just throwing money at anything that claims to be ‘innovation’,’ he said. 'They are selecting, choosing, and focusing money and attention in areas where they excel or areas that are close to it.’

For example, Israel has concentrated on 'high-tech, clean-tech and biotech', some of the areas that many Russian Jews who emigrated to Israel in the 1990s were already good in, Dr Stolarick said. Similarly, he said, Finland, which produced the hugely popular Angry Birds app, is focused on its niche: mobile phone-related technologies.

China ranked 30th out of 75 countries on the index despite the fact that it has invested heavily in the technology sector in recent years. The rising giant has become the world’s largest investor in renewable energy projects, a joint report by the United Nations and Frankfurt School of Finance said in July. But Dr Stolarick said China still had ‘a long way to go’ when it comes to generating new ideas.

That is an area where the US still has the edge, the report said. The North American giant ranked top for producing the most patents per capita, followed by Japan, Switzerland, Finland and Israel. But in order for bright ideas to turn into cold hard cash, capital investment is needed, Dr Stolarick said. And that is one reason the US remains a technological powerhouse despite the flurry of innovations generated by its smaller rivals.

Despite the dim prognosis for the world economy, Dr Stolarick sees a continued critical role for investment in tech innovation. The key is to be savvy about investment.

‘Innovation will help to alleviate the conditions of the downturn,’ he said. ‘But, it's not just throwing more money at things that claim to be ‘green tech’ or just to extend the period of decline for industries like automobiles.’

Source: The Straits Times, Singapore, November 2011


Labeling on sunscreens

In an opinion piece published in the Australian science magazine Cosmos late last year, Paul Wright, Associate Professor and the coordinator of Nanosafe Australia at RMIT University in Melbourne, cautioned that warning labels on sunscreens is ill-advised.

He argued that, as sunscreens are an important public health issue for Australians, the topic deserved balanced reporting. This should include weighing up the known risk of skin damage from excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure with a perceived risk of using nano sunscreens. Any misinformation in the public arena may stop parents and teachers from using the broadest UV protective sunscreens on children – especially those metal oxide-containing sunscreens that provide very good protection against harmful UVA exposure.

Wright goes on to give a succinct and clear account of how nano sunscreens can provide the best protection and sites several studies that show there is negligible penetration of metal oxide nanoparticles past the outer dead cell layer (in the stratum corneum) of healthy or damaged skin.

His article concludes by emphasising that not all nanoparticles behave in the same way biologically, or are potentially hazardous. Many engineered nanoparticles have been designed with both function and safety in mind. The full story can still be viewed online at http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/4732/full


Airbus investing in nanotechnology

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus SAS has invested US $1 million in Ohio for research into nano-materials and carbon fibers, building on the European planemaker’s effort to expand in the US.

With the current dollar-Euro exchange rate, it is no secret that Airbus is trying to source more and more from the US. Funding will go to the companies and the Dayton-based National Composite Center over five years for technologies for future planes. French-based Airbus spends about $10 billion annually on US suppliers and is seeking to double that over the next 10 to 15 years.

Airbus’s initial Ohio investment will be seed money for six companies to help develop nanotechnologies for carbon- fiber structure materials. Spending may grow as technologies are adopted for commercial use The Ohio companies receiving research funds include Angstron Materials Inc. of Dayton; GrafTech International Ltd. of Parma; NanoSperse of Kettering; Renegade Materials Corp. of Miamisburg; University of Dayton Research Institute; and Zyvex Technologies of Columbus.

Airbus America Chairman, Mr McArtor said he would “dearly love” to have a final assembly line in the US though there are no such plans in place at the moment. Airbus currently has final-assembly facilities in Toulouse, Hamburg, and Tianjin (China).


Nanoconnect Pilot Program

Flinders University in South Australia is launching a new program to help small business connect with nanotechnologists. NanoConnect is designed to show SMEs how nanotechnology can help improve their business via a simple, low-risk mechanism, which will allow companies to access University research resources such as advanced analytical equipment and technical ‘know-how’ that they would not otherwise have access to.

In the first instance, NanoConnect will test the demand for such a service and hopes it will help support innovative manufacturing in South Australia. Under the $130,000 pilot program, the centre will select eight proposals brought to it by businesses. Over two weeks, these companies will be invited to ‘brainstorm’ with researchers and then be provided with a free but brief feasibility study. This will remain the property of each company, as will any resulting intellectual property.

The centre’s director, Professor David Lewis, said nanotechnology was such unfamiliar territory to many companies that they did not know what questions to ask, who to ask, or how it might apply to them. ‘There’s a lot of potential applications for nanotech out there that people just aren't aware of,’ Professor Lewis said.

‘A lot of the stuff we’re talking about has only been discovered in the past 10 years or so, and there’s not actually a lot of knowledge base out there, especially within SMEs (small to medium enterprises), and that also applies to biotech and other emerging technologies which will end up becoming critical for Australia's future.’ The pilot would consider any proposal dealing with the nanoscale that is, down to the atom.

It is envisaged that three or four ideas will be taken to the next level as proof-of-concept studies. Each participating company would be expected to contribute personnel and materials to the value of $10,000. Flinders would get ‘nothing’ out of the pilot, unless companies decided to pursue a partnership through federal linkage grants or other commercialisation avenues.

‘If they want to come to us, that will be brilliant; if they prefer to go some place else, that is completely at their discretion. So from our perspective, we didn’t want companies to feel trapped,’ Professor Lewis said.

However, he hoped it would promote more university-industry interaction. If the federally backed 12-month pilot is successful, Professor Lewis said he hoped it could be rolled out nationally via university networks as an ongoing program.

The research program being launched by Flinders University with support from the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. Application areas can include Batteries, Bio-sensors, Chemical Sensors, Clean Technologies, Electronics, Fabrics, Pharmaceuticals, Plastic Components, Protective Coatings, Renewable Energy, Solar Cells, Sporting Goods, and Water Purification.

More information on the nanoconnect program is available at www.flinders.edu.au/nanoconnect

Source: The Advertiser 24 January 2012, original information from by MARIA MOSCARITOLO


Down to the wire: silicon links shrink to atomic scale

Australian scientists from UNSW and the University of Melbourne, in collaboration with their colleagues in Purdue University in the US, have created the narrowest conducting wires ever made and published these remarkable results in the esteemed journal Science. The silicon wires - just four atoms wide and one atom tall - have demonstrated the same electrical current carrying capability of copper.

Despite their astonishingly tiny, nano-scale diameter, these wires have exceptionally good electrical properties, raising hopes they will serve to connect atomic-scale components in the quantum computers of the future.

Lead author of the study, Brent Weber, a PhD student at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the UNSW, explains that interconnecting wiring of this scale is vital for the development of future atomic-scale electronic circuits.

The silicon wires were formed by precisely placing chains of phosphorus atoms within a silicon crystal, according to the study. Creating such tiny components has been made possible using a technique called scanning tunnelling microscopy. “This technique not only allows us to image individual atoms but also to manipulate them and place them in position,” says Weber.

The researchers discovered that the electrical resistivity of their wires - a measure of the ease with which electrical current can flow - does not depend on the wire width. Their behaviour is described by Ohm's law, a fundamental law of physics. “It is extraordinary to show that such a basic law still holds even when constructing a wire from the fundamental building blocks of nature - atoms,” says Weber.

The discovery demonstrates that electrical interconnects in silicon can shrink to atomic dimensions without the loss of functionality, says the Centre’s Director and leader of the research, Professor Michelle Simmons. “Driven by the semiconductor industry, computer chip components continuously shrink in size allowing ever smaller and more powerful computers,” Simmons says.

“Over the past 50 years this paradigm has established the microelectronics industry as one of the key drivers for global economic growth. A major focus of the Centre of Excellence at UNSW is to push this technology to the next level to develop a silicon-based quantum computer, where single atoms serve as the individual units of computation,” she says. “We are on the threshold of making transistors out of individual atoms. But to build a practical quantum computer we have recognised that the interconnecting wiring and circuitry also needs to shrink to the atomic scale.”

Source: Nanotech Now Press Release | Posted on January 7th, 2012. Image source: http://www.sciencenewsline.com/technology/summary/2012010521180031.html